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The History of Fairfax's Arequipa Sanatorium
Author Lynn Downey discusses the history of an all-female staff treating tuberculosis
As San Francisco recovered from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906, dust and ash filled the city’s stuffy factories, stores, and classrooms.
Dr. Philip King Brown noticed rising tuberculosis rates among the women who worked there, and he knew there were few places where they could get affordable treatment.
In 1911, with the help of wealthy society women and his wife, Helen, a protégé of philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Brown opened the Arequipa Sanatorium in Fairfax.
Together, Brown and his all-female staff gave new life to hundreds of working-class women suffering from tuberculosis in early-twentieth-century California. Arequipa gave female doctors a place to practice, female nurses and social workers a place to train, and white society women a noble philanthropic mission.
Author Lynn Downey’s own grandmother was given a terminal tuberculosis diagnosis in 1927. After treatment at Arequipa, she lived to be 102 years old.
Based on sanatorium records Downey herself helped to preserve and interviews she conducted with former patients and others associated with Arequipa, Downey tells a vivid story of the sanatorium and its cure that Brown and his talented team of Progressive women made available and possible for hundreds of working-class patients.
1312 Mission Ave, San Rafael, CA